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UCSF Doctor Urges Residents Keep Mask On, Vaccinated or Not

Bay Area residents were told that most masking would come to an end on June 15. But now, the majority of California’s population lives where indoor masking is recommended once again. 

“I don’t think you should if you’re inside,” said John Latifi, who is fully vaccinated. “It’s been too long, it’s time to make a change.”

Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of UCSF Department of Medicine, and one of the nation’s top COVID-19 experts, is vaccinated but wearing a mask again indoors now and says you should too. 

“Because the vaccines still work quite well, but the virus that I’m likely to be exposed to is the delta virus, which is twice as infectious as the original and it’s far more likely that I’m going to be exposed to it today than I was a month ago,” he said. “A month ago in San Francisco we were running 10 COVID cases a day and we’re up to about 100 cases a day. And those are just the diagnosed cases.” 

Dr. Wachter has three main factors:

  • The delta variant is circulating more widely now.
  • He doesn’t want long-term symptoms – something you can get after even a mild case of covid.
  • And lastly still, not enough people are vaccinated nationwide. 

“San Francisco is essentially 75% vaccinated. Two months ago, I would have said to you I think that’s going to be high enough to have local herd immunity,” said Wachter. “That’s going to be high enough to bump down the cases even if people do take their masks off. But with delta it’s not high enough and that’s why we’re seeing the surge. Really, delta has changed all of the facts on the ground.”

Dr. Wachter says this surge is much worse than the bump we expected with reopening. So does he think an indoor mask mandate is coming back? 

“I expect what Los Angeles did and went back to a mask mandate, I am guessing the Bay Area counties will do the same thing in the next couple weeks. Might not, if the cases plateau and start to come down but unless everyone starts wearing a mask without a mandate, I can’t see any good reason why that’s likely to happen,” said Wachter.

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